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Presented in 2005
Outer space is a dangerous environment for humans to explore. However, unmanned spacecraft, the workhorses of NASA’s current space program, can travel through space with relative ease. By constructing an advanced robotic mining craft using a combination of current and easily obtained future technologies, a mining expedition could be made to one of Earth’s nearest neighbors, a near-Earth asteroid. Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) come in all shapes and in all varieties, which makes choosing the proper asteroid to mine a nontrivial affair: considerations must be made of asteroidal orbit, size, and composition. In addition, once the asteroid is reached by the mining craft, the physical and chemical act of mining an asteroid in deep space, far from places where “normal” conditions like gravity and an oxygenated atmosphere prevail, is substantially difficult; each mining implement, procedure, and storage technique must be chosen precisely. After the completion of the first mining mission, the mining craft will return to Earth orbit where it will transfer its precious cargo of ferrous metals, rarer-metals, and volatile gasses to an awaiting orbital station, thus avoiding any further need to launch minerals from Earth, which is extremely expensive. As a result of the asteroid mining and resource gathering operation, the National Aeronautics and Space Association will be able to expand the number of its deep-space operations exponentially.